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Businesses that develop a reputation for being excellent in an area that their industry is frowned upon for will gain far more repeat business and help grow their customer base through referrals – customers will hardly be able to wait to tell their friends.

You don’t expect to see the words ‘excellent customer service’ and ‘plumbers’ in the same sentence, do you?

The negative perceptions associated with plumbers have tarnished the industry we operate in, and it is a challenge that we have been overcoming in our business. Perhaps your industry suffers from negative perceptions also. ‘Honest lawyers’, ‘tidy builders’ or ‘personable accountants’, anyone?

Businesses that develop a reputation for being excellent in an area that their industry is frowned upon for will gain far more repeat business and help grow their customer base through referrals – customers will hardly be able to wait to tell their friends.

The best way to do this in your business is to create a system that can be followed by everyone in your organisation. Our system is based upon creating a wonderful experience for anyone who uses our services.

To give you an idea of what such a system could look like in your business, here is an overview of ours:

1. Receive enquiry

We have developed scripts and templates that our receptionists and virtual assistants use to ensure phone and email interactions are professional and pleasant. This creates a great first impression with the customer and also makes sure that all information given out is consistent, clear and helpful.

2. Send helpful information after enquiry

Regardless of whether or not the person making the enquiry decided to go ahead with our services, we want to be as helpful as possible so send a follow-up email that is specific to the enquiry.

The email contains a free e-book that we have written to help people know their rights with tradespeople and also to help them choose the right plumber. If a booking has been made we also include the details of the booking, an overview of what they can expect, and even the bio and photo of their plumber.

3. Sharing expertise and complimentary assistance

Regardless of the job that any of our plumbers have been called out to do, we offer all our customers a complimentary peace-of-mind maintenance inspection of fixtures and fittings both inside and outside the home. If possible, the plumber will do some free adjustments and will also show the customer how to turn off their water and gas off in an emergency.

The plumber then puts a thorough report card together which even includes photos of areas of their home that need attention with an indication of when a check-up or replacement is required so the customer can plan ahead. It also helps the customer to change their outlook on plumbing maintenance, from something that needs fixing once the house is flooded, to regular maintenance that actually helps to prevent problems and lower costs.

Why give away so much of our plumbers’ time for free? It is all part of exceeding expectations and changing negative perceptions. By putting together a professional report that is emailed as a PDF after the inspection, it also gives us another reason to stay in contact with the customer.

More importantly, it means that our customers can have a totally different experience with us than with any other plumber. That is worth our time and also makes good business sense. The result? When those jobs that we point out need to be completed, they come to us first. 

4. Follow up call

Approximately one week after a job is completed, the customer receives a follow up call to see if they have any new questions they would like a specialist plumber to answer and to make sure they were happy with their service. We take the opportunity to get feedback that can be shared and acted upon in our weekly meetings.

5.  Thank you!

We send all customers an environmentally friendly thank you gift and/or seasonal offers. At the moment, we are sending out high-quality reusable drink bottles with our branding on them. In the past we have given out Keep Cups and shower timers.

Our customers also receive a voucher that they can either use on their next plumbing service, or can give to a friend to use, supporting both repeat business and referrals.

Then what?

When you build your system, make sure you create opportunities for future communication.

For example, our customers can opt-in for reminders when their assessments have expired or when repair jobs need to be completed. They can also sign up to receive DIY tips, how-to’s and seasonal offers to help them keep their biggest asset at its best.

We have a professional telemarketer periodically contact past customers to offer free maintenance inspections – no strings attached. All our customers appreciate this and since it keeps us top-of-mind for future plumbing jobs, it has also resulted in more business.

Social media is another great tool for staying in contact with customers. Don’t forget that you can offer incentives for social media engagement.

Finally, we share competitions, media coverage, helpful advice, referral incentives and invitations to get involved in charity projects that Pipe Perfection Plumbers are supporting. By using a sophisticated CRM system for all of this, you can ensure that contact is spread out and based on the type of customer.

Sound like too much work?

When you are first creating your system, it does require an investment of your time and perhaps even the input of a consultant to give you an independent or customer-centric perspective, but it is worth it! No only will it become part of your unique selling point, but it will result in happier customers (which leads to happier staff), repeat business and great word-of-mouth referrals.

Our business has now grown to the point that we use automation tools, apps and clever CRM systems to make the process smooth and efficient. Now you can find it less surprising to see the words ‘excellent customer service’ and ‘plumbers’ in the same sentence!

What do you think?

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Laney Clancy

Laney Clancy

Laney Clancy is Marketing and Finance Manager at Pipe Perfection Plumbers in Sydney. It’s her job to make her customer’s lives easier – and she takes it seriously. The business is based on three principles: professionalism, expertise and reliability. Having started as a veterinarian, Laney eventually found herself working in marketing and in 2004 brought her marketing skills to Pipe Perfection Plumbers and has helped see it grow to the small business that it is today, with a team that includes specialist plumbers, Enviroplumbers and more.

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